Gathered For The Launch


Unplugged, off life support. He didn't die right away. It took longer than expected. His wife of over sixty years took his hand and squeezed it. She wondered if he could feel her touch. She jumped a little when he held on. A smile attacked her face and the sorrow in her heart lifted a little. In his mind they walked on the beach on a sunny day, and sand was getting in between their toes as they started to giggle like school children.

Suddenly his mind took him to a battlefield. There they caught and tortured German soldiers for the hell of it. He looked into the eyes of his enemy and started a violent torture, the enemy cried, tears streaming down his face on a grayish September morning.

That afternoon cooled, and the grim details of his war days spilled out. He had flash backs and memories of his unit blowing up homes and churches. Taking pot-shots at the flaming, flailing church goers who raced out of the burning buildings.

He would also set fire to the prison camps where he killed hundreds of German soldiers who were prisoners of war. He'd tell his superiors that the fires were caused by the prisoners and his first priority was to save his unit.

German officials were assassinated by his unit and women and children were killed in the cross-fire. His heart was made of cold stone as he killed his enemy without a small glimmer of remorse. One day he watched Jewish families being led away to unknown destinations and he refused to save them because he didn't want to care for them. He just liked killing.

Night fell, the temperature in that particular September dropped. His best friend walked into his tent with a couple of beers. He thought his best friend was an enemy soldier so he shot him twice in the head. He realized his mistake, but his cold heart took over. For a brief moment he looked strained, but an expression of grim held him tight. He and his buddy were the same age, and they went to high school together. They had a great deal in common. But war was war.

He would dump the body somewhere behind enemy lines. It would be found, of course, and there will be an investigation and both sides would attack. His friend's death would have had nothing to do with murder, and it would have been labeled simply as casualties of war.

He would return home as a hero and everyone cheered him. He would meet his wife and the dreaded past would disappear. He would never think of the war again. The shooting, the killing, the torture and the pain would just vanish.

A blind, frail woman stood in front of him carrying a torch. The darkness fell upon him as he just glared at the blind woman. She led him down the hall to a large wooden door that stood at the end. She timely knocked and a deep voice had hauntingly echoed enter. The frail woman pushed him through and he fell on the cold marble floor.

A bit breathless he looked up and saw his best friend sitting at a desk that was three sizes too small. His friend was reading all the sins he committed during war times and each sin struck a chord in his heart.

In the corner, amidst a pile of broken bones, crushed skulls and dried human skin was a glass box that contained his heart. It was beating slowly and with little movement. That's when he realized there would be no forgiveness. His sins were collected and gathered for the launch.

© 2015 Frank Atanacio

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Comments 36 comments

cam8510 profile image

cam8510 15 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

That was quite a ride, Frank. From death bed to sandy beach, battle field and judgement hall, you described the horrific end to a horrific life. Pure hell. This is a well written, descriptive story. I wonder how much his wife knew as she waited for him to pass on.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 15 months ago from Olympia, WA

There is so much crammed into this story, buddy, that I wished it was longer so I could learn more....a job well done by a master storyteller.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 15 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you Cam and Billy for reading my launch :)

annart profile image

annart 15 months ago from SW England

Well, this is something else, Frank. I was wondering whether the wife knew about any of that; I guess not as she was obviously lifted by his grasp. As for the war crimes, he was obviously affected terribly by what went on around him, at least one hopes that's why he reacted as he did.

Terrific story; you had me racing along with all the memories and falling into that room with him at the end. Such effects are created by the best story-tellers, Frank.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 15 months ago from Shelton Author

ann you're great for my ego.. :) bless you

annart profile image

annart 15 months ago from SW England

You're the one who creates the stories, so it's all down to you - you deserve all these comments. You're very welcome, nonetheless.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 15 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you and God bless you

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 15 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

You are a master and I feel guilty just reading this. Well done. I hope never to see my heart in a box.

Dana Tate profile image

Dana Tate 15 months ago from LOS ANGELES

I think all killers feel that they won't feel any remorse for the crime they committed. I have heard many men, who wen't to death row were plagued by nightmares. Afraid to face a judgement they heard about but didn't quite believe in.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 15 months ago from The Caribbean

Dana, took my comment in part. The first thing I thought of when you mentioned the best friend at the desk is that nobody talks of judgement anymore; but your stories have it all. I always admire your stories for the details you include. Another great one!

always exploring profile image

always exploring 15 months ago from Southern Illinois

Judgment day! How horrible. War is hell and you captured it. I loved it.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 15 months ago from Shelton Author

Thank you so much Eric and Dana, MsDora and Always for reading my launch.. bless you guys :)

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 15 months ago from New York

Frank, do you keep getting better or am I just falling deeper into your stories? You start this out so calm and sad then turn it to horror and treachery, ending with a balance of justice.

Amazing my friend, simply amazing.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 15 months ago from Shelton Author

Tillsontitan you are amazingly generous with your comments.. bless you

clivewilliams profile image

clivewilliams 15 months ago from Nibiru

Thats one killing maniac there frank...imagine your buddy comes with beer and that BAM BAM!twice in the head? sweeetttt

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 15 months ago from Shelton Author

You Jive Clive, thanks buddy for stopping by

FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 15 months ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

sheesh, powerful images from sand squishing between the toes to best friend reading at an undersized table. I envisioned it too small to hold the list too.

Well done.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 15 months ago from Shelton Author

thanks for reading fitnezz jim

BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 15 months ago from Victoria, Australia

A great story, you really get under the skin of your characters.

Missy Smith profile image

Missy Smith 15 months ago from Florida

Another intriguing story Frank. This man was really struggling with his demons before he passed. I agree with some of the other comments; I wanted the story to continue. You could go so many places with this one.

It kind of reminded me of a book I read many years ago titled; The Five People You Meet In Heaven. I think the author was Mitch Albom, and they made a movie out of it later. Jon Voight, I believe, played the main character. I never watched it, but a section of that book reminded me of your story in a way. The main character, Eddie, encounters five different people in heaven who impacted his life. The second person in heaven he meets is his old war captain, and it brought to light a lot of things that happened in the war; things Eddie wasn't even aware of himself.

Anyway, I just remember feeling the pain the character Eddie was feeling during this time, and I could feel what your character feels at the moment of his death knowing he became a monster of war.

War is scary, and I bet most who have had to serve in those types of wars go through so much guilt and turmoil at the end of their lives. Very dramatic story.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 15 months ago from Shelton Author

Thanks for reading Blossoms and stopping by.. and thank you too Missy.. I don't think I've heard of that book.. but sounds like an interesting read... thanks for the reading tip :)

thelyricwriter profile image

thelyricwriter 15 months ago from West Virginia

Amazing Frank! Wicked :)

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 15 months ago from Shelton Author

thanks so much thelyricwriter.. and good to see you bro :)

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 15 months ago from southern USA

Hi Frank,

I'm sorry to be late to your launch. This is a great read on this Friday night to start the weekend off reading. You always pack so much into your writing with few words ...the sign of a great writer, of course!

You certainly drew us in with that first paragraph and then created that wonderful crescendo into horror as always. Well done.

Blessings for a great weekend ahead

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 15 months ago from Shelton Author

Hey Faith always good to see you hope all is well with you and your family :) Frank

Genna East profile image

Genna East 15 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

"The casualties of war..." The terror and inhumanity of war reaches far and spares no one...on this earthly plane or the next. Bravo, Frank, on a brilliant story.

Jodah profile image

Jodah 15 months ago from Queensland Australia

This was a delightful read Frank. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 15 months ago from Shelton Author

Thank you so much Genna and Jodah for checking out my Launch.. bless you guys

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 15 months ago from sunny Florida

Wow....powerful stuff, Frank.... being held accountable at last....war is hell...there really are no winners.

Great story---I like the element of unexpectedness in your writing Frank...I can see a collection of short stories emerging....

shared g+ tweeted

Angels are once again on the way to you. ps

aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 15 months ago from Stillwater, OK

That has always been my thoughts on how it really is. When your number is up, the truth always comes out...

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 15 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you so much for reading my gathered pstraubie and aviannovice bless you both :) Frank

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 14 months ago from USA

This was mesmerizing, phenomenal. Shared, G+ing.

Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 14 months ago

Frank, how sad, it is tragic that those inhumane acts of uncaring violence went deeper then just strangers and enemies. I am so glad it is fiction.

I want to share this, but the share button is gone.

Blessings my friend.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 14 months ago from Shelton Author

thank you Flourish and Shyron for reading my launch :)

Besarien profile image

Besarien 13 months ago

Having his best friend whom he murdered, maybe not quite intentionally but definitely posthumously, sit in judgment was a very clever mask for God to wear. Who was God to him but one who loved him whom he betrayed? I'm in awe of your talent for flash fiction. You pack so many intense, nightmarishly beautiful images into such tiny little gifts for us. Those images stick with me, follow me around for days or weeks, and probably crawl into my dreams. You manage so much in so few words, too. That is a rare, weird, and wonderful talent you have curled over your shoulder. Thank for letting the rest of us kids see and pet it a little while. By the way, the word "launch" immediately made me think about the cow catapult from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. For that alone, I love you forever.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 13 months ago from Shelton Author

LOL thanks Besarien.. for your comment and reading my launch bless you girl

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